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Sufficientarianism as Minimizing Deprivation

Human Rights
Political Theory
Normative Theory
P10
Emanuela Ceva
University of Geneva
Nikolas Kirby
University of Oxford

Wednesday 16:00 - 17:00 (16/03/2022)


Abstract

Speaker: Carl Knight, University of Glasgow Sufficientarianism is the view that we ought to provide enough. Some add, portentously, ‘or as close to enough as is possible’. This paper provides a sustained exploration of this rider, addressing the underexplored but crucial question of how sufficientarianism should handle cases in which it is not possible for everyone to have enough. The two most prominent views in this space are headcounting, which says that we must maximise the number of people at or above the threshold of sufficiency, giving subthreshold benefits no weight relative to this goal, and constrained prioritarianism, which by contrast says that all subthreshold benefits count, and count for more, the further the recipient is from the threshold. Our speaker, Carl Knight argues that neither position can be defended as they both fail to reflect the scalar metrics and sources of value of standard sufficientarian views. He rather defends a view intermediate between these two, which gives priority neither to those able to attain the threshold nor those far from the threshold. This view, which Carl calls minimizing deprivation, simply says that we minimize the sum total of deprivation, construed as the overall shortfall to the threshold. He argues that minimizing deprivation is the only view that can reconcile the twin sufficientarian objectives of (1) giving great weight to attaining the threshold while also (2) accounting for subthreshold sufficientarian value.